Choose this Day Whom You Will Serve : What the Bible Says about Pyramid Schemes
By Mark Buckley
Beware of illegal and unethical Pyramid Schemes. There are several variations of pyramid schemes going on in Phoenix, Arizona, USA right now. One entails people taking $2,000 to a meeting. The $2,000 is “gifted” to someone else and then the person takes eight other friends who “gift” others with $2,000. After their friends bring $2,000, the original person receives $16,000. This may seem like a great way to make money quickly. In reality, it brings pain, hurt, and confusion to many who get caught up in it. Pyramid programs by their very nature are designed to produce a great return for those who get involved early on, and anguish for those who are last to participate.
During the early part of 1997, Albanians were experiencing their first fruits of democracy. The people had not been exposed to many business practices, either legitimate or fraudulent, because of the Communist regime. When some devious individuals introduced a pyramid program to Albania, hundreds of thousands of people participated. When the nation was saturated with this program, the last people to buy in realized that they had nobody to collect money from and the pyramid collapsed. At that point, thousands of the people went on a rampage. Anarchy broke out and a civil war began. To this day, the nation has not regained its stability. The people were naïve and somehow felt that they could get rich without really working, simply by investing in a devious pyramid scheme.
Key Scriptures That Address Financial Responsibilities
People should know better, but unfortunately there are many gullible people in the world. Most pyramid schemes are run by people who do not care about the other participants. They know that a great majority of them will lose money, but since their motivation is greed, that doesn’t stop them.
There are ethical and scriptural reasons why Christians should not participate in pyramid schemes:
- Many are illegal. The operators of the schemes will often tell people that they are legal. They will also fight charges in court to delay the legal process from shutting them down, because the longer they keep going, the more money they make.
- The Bible says “Be not deceived, God is not mocked, whatsoever a man sows, that he shall also reap” (Galatians 6:7). If you sow your time, energy or money into a program that ultimately causes financial loss, suffering and confusion to others, even if you made money temporarily, you will ultimately reap suffering, confusion and financial loss as a result.
- Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12). We would not want anyone to get us involved in any endeavor, which would cause us financial loss. Therefore, as believers, we should not entice other people into a pyramid program which may cause them to experience financial loss. Is it really worth destroying relationships with people you know over love for money?
- Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is better than great riches.” If you participate in a unethical pyramid program, you are damaging your good name. People will begin to mistrust your motives. They will see you as a person who’s willing to take advantage of them in order to bring profit to yourself.
- The love of money motivates people to care more about self-interests than their neighbors or brothers. All pyramid programs will end up burning more people than they help. The basic mathematics of these programs necessitates that there will be many times more people losing than gaining money. That great majority of people will feel hurt, used, and abused. They will be disappointed and lose trust in anyone who got them involved in these programs. “The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). As Christians, we should be promoting righteousness, peace, and joy. Our relationships should be built on love and trust.
- The Bible says, “You must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat” (1 Corinthians 5:11). Swindlers take advantage of other people’s weaknesses to make money for themselves. Greedy people are motivated by a desire for personal gain at others’ expense. Covetousness is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). We should flee such unrighteousness.
- “Those who do not work should not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The desire to make money without working for it is an unrighteous desire. God uses work to build and shape our character. He delights in providing for those who put His Kingdom and His Righteousness first. Some people talk about using wealth that they are going to gain from pyramid schemes or gambling to promote God’s Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is not promoted by unrighteousness. It is promoted through the loving sacrifice of those who are obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why is it that some Christians lack significant spiritual responsibility? One reason can be found in Luke 16:11 where Jesus said, “If you are not trustworthy in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will trust you with the true riches?” The way we handle our money is something God uses to determine whether He will trust us with the true riches of His Kingdom, which includes caring for His people and the release of spiritual gifts in our lives.
“Flee the very appearance of evil” (Thessalonians 5:22)
I urge you to flee from any unrighteous business dealings, unethical or illegal pyramid programs, gambling, or activities that are promoted by greed. God’s work is promoted most fruitfully by people who learn to love and give wisely, from an obedient, cheerful heart. If you keep God’s Word, you will grow in the knowledge of Him and prosper in your soul. If you seek His Kingdom first and His Righteousness, He promises that you will always have enough of everything you need to enjoy this life. We only have one life to live; let’s live it God’s way!
The basic mathematics of these programs necessitates that there will be many times more people losing than gaining money. He who separates himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all sound wisdom. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Summation of the ethical and Scriptural reasons to avoid unethical or illegal pyramid schemes:
- They are illegal or at best, unethical
- You reap what you sow.
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- A good name is better than riches.
- The love of money is the root of all sorts of evil.
- You must not associate with…[the] greedy, or a swindler.
- Those who do not work should not eat.
This article was taken from the Living Times magazine July, 1997 issue, published by Living Streams Church. Used With Permission.
Mark Buckley pastors Living Streams Church located in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a gifted and anointed author and has had his works published in Ministry Today and Charisma magazines among others. E-mail Mark Buckley at: email@example.com. Or write to: Living Streams – P.O. Box 44800 – Phoenix, AZ 85064
You can be blessed by reading more of Mark Buckley’s articles at the Living Streams Website: http://www.livingstreams.org/
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